Dexter Gordon (February 27, 1923 – April 25, 1990) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist. He was among the earliest tenor players to adapt thebebop musical language of people such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bud Powell to the instrument. His studio and live performance career spanned over 40 years.
Gordon's height was 6 feet 6 inches (198 cm), so he was also known as "Long Tall Dexter" and "Sophisticated Giant". He played a Conn 10m ladyface until 1964. He lost the instrument in a Paris hotel. He then switched over to a Selmer Mark VI. His saxophone was fitted with an Otto Link metal mouthpiece, which can be seen in various photos.
Dexter Gordon was named a member and officer of the French Order of Arts and Letters in 1986 by the Ministry of Culture in France. His performance in Round Midnight (Warner Bros, 1986) was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Leading Role and he won a Grammy for Best Soundtrack. Dexter Gordon died on April 25, 1990, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Between 1940 and 1943, Gordon was a member of Lionel Hampton's band, playing in a saxophone section alongside Illinois Jacquet and Marshall Royal. In 1943 he made his first recordings under his own name, alongside Nat Cole and Harry 'Sweets' Edison. During 1943-44 he featured in theLouis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson bands, before joining Billy Eckstine.
By 1945, Gordon had left the Eckstine band and was resident in New York, where he was performing and recording with Charlie Parker, as well as recording under his own name. Gordon was particularly known for his saxophone duels with fellow tenorman Wardell Gray that were a popular live attraction which were documented in recordings made between 1947 and 1952.
Gordon's sound was commonly characterized as being 'large' and spacious and he had a tendency to play behind the beat. One of his major influences was Lester Young. Gordon, in turn, was an early influence on John Coltrane during the 1940s and 1950s. Coltrane's playing, however, during his early period from the mid to late '50s or early '60s influenced Gordon's playing from then onward. Similarities in their styles include their clear, strong, metallic tones, their tendencies to bend up to high notes, and their abilities to single-tongue and still swing. One of Gordon's idiosyncrasies was to recite the lyrics of each ballad before playing it.